I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it yet, but apart from being a writer I’m also a stand-up comedian. Or I was, from March 2015 to about a month ago.
Last month, non-coincidentally at the same time I started this blog, I stopped being a comedian and instead entered a phase of “on an indefinite hiatus but still doing shows because I made commitments already but not booking new shows and instead just hovering in a state of uncomfortable uncertainty about whether I’ll ever perform again, until I eventually move to another city and start over,” which is a scenario that we desperately need an English word for.
I’ve written a couple of posts that relate to my decision to quit, although I didn’t include the full context in terms of the comedy scene- and I won’t now, as that would require enough back-story that I might as well write a novella about it. The point is that as far as I was concerned, I was out. Done. Finished.
And I felt good about this decision. My enthusiasm for comedy had been so dampened that the choice to call it a day and never look back seemed an obvious one.
True, maybe I was committing the cardinal sin of letting one or two bad experiences ruin everything. But when you’re expecting that bad experience to continue spawning more bad experiences, why not decide to draw the line? When is it sucking it up and dealing with it, and when is it needlessly torturing yourself? When is it a good idea to step out of your comfort zone, and when is it a better idea to just say, “nah, fuck that”?
So, I quit. I made an announcement and everything.
Then, a couple of things happened that gave me second thoughts. Things that would’ve been great news for the comedy career I’d just decided to chuck out the window. And since I already went full asshole for linking to my act in the beginning of this post, I’ll just go ahead and throw in the details: my two upcoming shows in the Women in Comedy Festival and this Burlington Free Press article.
Here’s the weird thing that happens when you get good news about something you’re no longer interested in: it makes you interested again. All of sudden, I wanted to be excited that I was getting recognition. I wanted to seize opportunities. I wanted to capitalize on my Fifteen Minutes of Fame while there was still a chance that it could turn into something worthwhile.
But I also really, really, really didn’t want to go through the emotional turmoil of inserting myself back into a position that I felt I had to give up for my own mental well-being.
I was facing a tough decision, made even tougher by the fact that there’s no real way to compromise. You can’t refuse to perform in certain venues or showcases without missing out on a lot of potential bookings. And you can’t insist on finding out who else is in a lineup before deciding whether or not to say yes without coming off as impossible to work with.
If I was going to go back into the fray, I had to accept and deal with the fact that there were going to be bullets flying. Bullets that, if caught, would hurt very much.
That, or I could stay out of it. Fully withdraw from the community, get busy with other things, and hope that none of the opportunities I silently watched pass by would turn out to be the great What Ifs of my life.
Neither option was making a great case for itself. So I did what I do best when faced with a difficult decision: avoid, avoid, avoid.
I didn’t think about it. I didn’t plan ahead. I didn’t make any effort to make a choice.
Instead, I focused on getting through the couple of shows that I knew I couldn’t get out of- one of which I was living in abject terror in anticipation of, because I knew I’d be coming face-to-face with the one person who was sure to ruin my night and make me suuuuuper uncomfortable.
It was a scenario I was so uninterested in living out another time, that it was 90% of the reason I’d decided to quit comedy in the first place. But the one silver lining was that it was weeks away, and that meant I had (metaphorically) all the time in the world to steel my nerves.
Or so I thought.
I’ll refrain from turning this into another story about- oh, let’s still call him Trevor. I’ll just mention that he turned up, out of the blue, when I was in no way prepared for that confrontation.
And you know what happened?
I was totally able to handle it.
And suddenly my entire perspective on the situation was cast into doubt.
I didn’t think I could be in the same room with Trevor and not only not cry, but also get my shit together enough to be a professional. But I was wrong about that.
What else was I wrong about? Was I wrong in thinking that I wasn’t welcome in certain places because they’d already been marked as his territory? Was I wrong to assume that just because one person sided with him and rejected me, almost everyone else was secretly on his side and as such didn’t truly support me? Was I wrong in thinking that any of this was a real consideration while deciding what I felt like doing in my life?
Was I wrong to quit?
At the end of this saga, I find that I only know two things for certain.
The first is that you can run away from your problems, but eventually they’ll catch up with you- and then you’ll have to decide, right there in the moment, trial-by-fire, what you’re actually going to do about it.
The second is that I might be a comedian again.